Bose Corporation

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Bose Corporation
Type Private
Industry Consumer electronics
Founded 1964
Founders Amar Bose[1]
Headquarters Framingham, Massachusetts, U.S.
Key people Bob Maresca (President)
Products Loudspeakers, headphones, audio equipment, car audio, Professional audio
Revenue Increase US$ 2.5 billion (2013)[2]
Employees 10,500 (2014)[3]
Website bose.com

The Bose Corporation /ˈbz/ is an American privately held corporation, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, that specializes in audio equipment.[4] Founded in 1964 by Dr. Amar G. Bose, the company sells its products throughout the world,[5] and employs more than 10,500 people.[3]

Bose is best known for its home audio systems and speakers,[6] noise cancelling headphones,[7] professional audio systems[8] and automobile sound systems.[9] The company has also conducted research into suspension technologies for cars[10] and heavy-duty trucks[11] and into the subject of cold fusion.[12]

Bose has a reputation for being particularly protective of its patents, trademarks, and brand.

History[edit]

Formation of Bose Incorporated[edit]

The company was founded in 1964[13] by Amar G. Bose. Eight years earlier, Bose, then a graduate student at MIT, had purchased a stereo system and was disappointed with its performance. This led him to research the importance of reverberant (indirect) sound on perceived audio quality.[14]

Early years[edit]

Bose began extensive research aimed at clarifying factors that he saw as fundamental weaknesses plaguing high-end audio systems. The principal weaknesses, in his view, were that the overall design of the electronics and speaker failed to account for the spatial properties of the radiated sound in typical listening spaces (homes and apartments) and the implications of spatiality for psychoacoustics, i.e. the listener's head as a sonic diffraction object as part of the system. Eight years later, he started the company, charging it with a mission to achieve "Better Sound Through Research", now the company slogan.

In an interview in 2007 Bose talked about an early review that kept the company alive.

"One magazine in the United States, a really credible magazine, had one reviewer named Norman Eisenburg who really knew his music. In those days I used to take the loudspeaker to the reviewer. I packed my son and loudspeaker in the car and went off. I put this little thing on top of the big speakers he had, turned it on, and within five minutes he said: 'I don't care if this is made of green cheese, it's the best sound, most accurate sound, I've ever heard.' He came out with a review titled 'Surround and Conquer'. He was not known to do things like that. Everybody in the press knew he knew music, and it resulted in rave reviews one after another, and we were able to survive."[15]

Research history[edit]

Bose's first loudspeaker product, the model 2201,[16] dispersed 22 small mid-range speakers over an eighth of a sphere. It was designed to be located in the corner of a room, using reflections off the walls to increase the apparent size of the room. An electronic equalizer was used to flatten the frequency spectrum of this system. The results of listening tests were disappointing.[16]

After this research Bose came to the conclusion that imperfect knowledge of psychoacoustics limits the ability to adequately characterize quantitatively any two arbitrary sounds that are perceived differently, and to adequately characterize and quantify all aspects of perceived quality. He believes, for example, that distortion is much overrated as a factor in perceived quality in the complex sounds that comprise music. Similarly, he does not find measurable relevance to perceived quality in other easily measured parameters of loudspeakers and electronics, and therefore does not publish those specifications for Bose products. The ultimate test, Bose insists, is the listener's perception of audible quality (or lack of it) and his or her own preferences.[17][18] This reluctance to publish information is due to Bose's rejection of these measurements in favour of "more meaningful measurement and evaluation procedures".[19]

Bose conducted further research into psychoacoustics that eventually clarified the importance of a dominance of reflected sound arriving at the head of the listener, a listening condition that is characteristic of live performances. This led to a speaker design in which eight identical mid-range drivers (with electronic equalization) were aimed at the wall behind the speaker while the ninth driver was aimed towards the listener. The purpose of this design was to achieve a dominance of reflected over direct sound in home listening spaces. The pentagonal design used in the Model 901 was, and remains, unconventional compared with most systems where the mid-range and high-frequency speakers directly face the listener.

The Model 901 premiered in 1968 and was an immediate commercial success, and Bose Corporation grew rapidly during the 1970s. Also of interest, the Bose 901 has been in continuous production since 1968 second only to the Klipsch Klipschorn speaker in longevity of continuous production.[20] In 2018, the 901's will celebrate 50 years of continuous production.

History of Bose Corporation presidents[edit]

  1. William (Bill) Zackowitz (1964–66)
  2. Charles "Chuck" Hieken (1966–69)
  3. Frank E. Ferguson (1969–76)
  4. Amar G. Bose (1976–80)
  5. Sherwin Greenblatt (1980–2000)[16]
  6. John Coleman (2000–2005)
  7. Bob Maresca (Since 2005)

Amar Bose was the company chairman and the primary stockholder until he donated the majority of the firm's shares to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011.[21][22] He died in July 2013 at the age of 83.[23]

Bose stores[edit]

Bose retail store in Century City

In 1993 Bose opened its first store in Kittery, Maine. Since then Bose has opened 190 stores in the U.S. and numerous locations worldwide. In Britain there are twelve Bose stores, including one on Regent Street.[24]

Facilities[edit]

The company runs facilities in Framingham, Westborough and Stow, Massachusetts.[25]

Lines of specialized products[edit]

Car audio[edit]

Bose Car Audio

In 1983 Bose introduced the industry’s first custom-engineered, factory-installed sound systems in the 1983 Cadillac Seville, Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado.[26]In these early systems, Bose customized each installation by building the speaker enclosure and adjusting the frequency response for each vehicle. Bose produces a range of speakers and audio products for automotive use. At the 2007 auto show in Geneva, Switzerland Bose launched a new media system—incorporating stereo, navigation, and hands free calling—with the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.[27][28][29][30] In 2007 the Bose media system won the International Telematics Award for the "Best Storage Solution for In-Car Environment".[31]

Some automotive manufacturers that have used in the past or currently use Bose car audio products are: Acura, Audi, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Fiat, GMC, Honda, Infiniti, Mazda, Maybach, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Oldsmobile, Porsche, Renault and Volkswagen.

Automotive suspension system[edit]

Bose conducts research into using electromagnetic motors in place of conventional (hydraulic or air) automotive suspension systems. The system was due for release in 2009,[32][33] however as yet there are no vehicles in production using the system.

This research is based on two-state, non-linear power processing and conditioning. In 2004, Bose unveiled a prototype application of the technology[34] after more than 20 years of research. The system uses electromagnetic linear motors to raise or lower the wheels of an automobile in response to uneven bumps or potholes on the road.[35] Within milliseconds, the wheels are raised when approaching a bump, or extended into a pothole, thus keeping the vehicle level. This technology uses similar principles to noise cancelling technology for speakers and earphones. The unevenness of the road is sensed, and processed much like a sound wave. A canceling wave is generated, which is applied to the wheels through the linear motors.[22] In a French interview, Bose even shows off the car jumping over an obstacle.[36] Bose says that the system is "high cost" and heavy, even after many years and $100 million of development.[37]

Noise cancelling headphones[edit]

Bose makes noise-cancelling headphones that have been lauded for their performance,[38] though they have been criticized by Anthony Kershaw of Audiophilia as costing "at least 50% too much for the musical value of the experience ... however, if you're a frequent flyer, these are a no brainer".[39] Bose makes noise-canceling aviation headsets which have been used in the Space Shuttle to help prevent astronaut hearing damage.[40]

Truck driver seat isolation system[edit]

Bose applied its research in suspension systems to the problem of fatigue, back pain and physical stress experienced by truck drivers.[41] In 2010, Bose introduced Bose Ride,[42] an active system that reduces road-induced vibration in the driver's seat. Bose claims as much as a 90% reduction in driver's seat vibration.[43]

Commercial systems[edit]

Bose's Professional Systems Division designs and provides audio systems for use in commercial settings such as auditoriums, retail spaces, hotels, offices, restaurants, and stadiums. Though Bose commercial audio equipment has not been approved due to never applying for use in studios or movie theaters that carry THX certification,[44] the division accounts for about 60% of Bose's annual revenue.[45] In 1988, Bose became the first company to pay for the title of official Olympics sound system supplier, providing audio equipment for the Winter Olympics in Calgary, and again four years later in Albertville, France, the latter installed and maintained by company subsidiary Bose France.[46][47] Bose sound systems have been installed at various places around the world including the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, Sistine Chapel in Rome and the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca. In 2011,a large Bose system at the Staples Center sports arena in Los Angeles was replaced by a considerably more expensive and much newer ($1.5 million vs. $3.4 million, 1999 vs. 2011)[48]JBL sound system, as the Bose system was no longer regarded as cutting edge, and could not provide the best performance.[49] For each of these reverberant spaces, proposed sound designs were tested using the Bose Auditioner program to predict the results before installation.[40][50]

L1 Portable Systems[edit]

The L1 Portable Systems are developed, supported and sold through the Bose Live Music Technology division of the Bose Commercial Systems division. These are self-contained units that being portable are used in professional audio applications. These are distinguished from other products in the Commercial Systems Division that are usually installed permanently. Initially marketed directly to performing musicians, the L1 Portable System are also widely used by DJ's.

Electroforce[edit]

In 2004 Bose acquired company assets related to the development, manufacture and sales of materials testing equipment, founding the ElectroForce Systems Group,[51] which provides materials testing and durability simulation instruments to research institutions, universities, medical device companies and engineering organizations worldwide.

Military applications[edit]

Bose has contracts with the U.S. military[52][53] and NASA.[54]

Lines of home audio & video products[edit]

A typical example of Bose products. The $200 Bose SoundLink Mini uses Bluetooth to play audio from cell phones and other portable devices

With respect to sales in the U.S. for home audio retail home theater systems (speaker and receiver combination systems) and portable audio sales, Bose was respectively ranked first and third in 2012.[55] Unlike "high-end" home theater systems that use separate components,[56] Bose multimedia TV systems combine the processing and amplification into a single unit.

Multimedia systems[edit]

Speaker systems[edit]

Home entertainment systems[edit]

Technical data not published[edit]

Amar Bose believed that traditional measures of audio equipment are not relevant to perceived audio quality and therefore does not publish those specifications for Bose products, claiming that the ultimate test is the listener's perception of audio quality according to the listener's preferences.[15][57] Many other audio product manufacturers publish numerical test data of their equipment, but Bose does not.[18] In 1968, Bose presented a paper to the Audio Engineering Society titled "On the Design, Measurement and Evaluation of Loudspeakers". In this paper, he rejects numerical test data in favor of "more meaningful measurement and evaluation procedures".[57] When tested by independent reviewers, Bose systems often produce inferior results compared to similarly priced products from other manufacturers.[58][59]

Reception[edit]

Discussion of the quality of Bose products can sometimes elicit strong and polarized opinions. Some see Bose as a maker of high-end equipment, while others see Bose as a company that uses marketing to make extravagant claims for otherwise ordinary products.

In some non-audio related publications, Bose has been cited as a producer of "high-end audio" products.[60] Commenting on Bose's "high-end" market positioning among audiophiles (people concerned with the best possible sound), a PC Magazine product reviewer stated "not only is Bose equipment's sound quality not up to audiophile standards, but one could buy something that does meet these stringent requirements for the same price or, often, for less."[61] Bose has not been certified by THX for its home entertainment products[62] even though its more expensive home theater products compete at price-points where THX certification is common.

Some other views include:

  • Bose's flagship 901 speaker system was criticized by Stereophile magazine in 1979.[63] In a review of the 901 system, stating that in the magazine's opinion, the system was unexceptional and unlikely to appeal to perfectionists with a developed taste in precise imaging, detail, and timbre; and that these shortcomings were an excessive price to pay for the improvement in impact and ambiance generated by the large proportion of reflected sound [to on-axis sound]. However, the author also stated that the system produced a more realistic resemblance of natural ambiance than any other speaker system. A more recent positive review by TONE Audio found that the 901 was better than expected and a good value at the $1,400 price. Of note, the speakers could not be found at local retailers and had to be special ordered.[64]
  • A 2005 market study published by Forrester Research reported that Bose's brand name was among several computer and consumer electronics brands most trusted by US consumers including Dell and Hewlett-Packard.[65]
  • A 2007 review in Audioholics online magazine reiterated that Bose was very expensive for its performance. Of the Bose Lifestyle V20 Home Theater System the reviewer wrote, "The Bose system is very expensive at nearly $2,000 and the sound quality isn't really any better than many other surround systems costing a third of the price... the smaller [bass] cones cannot reproduce lower tactile [sic] frequencies." The review includes an interview with a Best Buy sales manager who suggests from his experience that, despite his directing customers to a better-sounding and less expensive alternative, some customers insist on Bose.[66]
  • A July 2012 review by NBC News of the $5,000 46" Bose TV noted that the video screen, produced by Samsung, resembles most closely a $750 flat panel television, and that the technology used is not up to par with other screens in the same category. The review then questions the value of the additional $4,260 cost for the Bose TV, suggesting there are compelling audio alternatives for less than 1/5th the price difference.[67]The same system received a positive review by PC Magazine that cited the user interface and sound quality in an unobtrusive design.[68]
  • In July 2013, iLounge wrote about the Bose Soundlink Mini, a small remote speaker competing against inexpensive, low-end audio devices, that "Audio quality is SoundLink Mini’s real trump card over Jambox and most—not all—of its competitors.... SoundLink Mini delivers much deeper bass and cleaner mid-bass at all volumes, suffering from noticeable distortion solely at the top of its volume scale."[69]

Legal action[edit]

Bose has been described by audio industry professionals as a litigious company.[70][71] In 1981 Bose unsuccessfully sued the magazine Consumer Reports for libel. Consumer Reports reported in a review that the sound from the system that they reviewed "tended to wander about the room." Initially, the Federal District Court found that Consumer Reports "had published the false statement with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of its truth or falsity" when it changed what the original reviewer wrote about the speakers in his pre-publication draft, that the sound tended to wander "along the wall." The Court of Appeals then reversed the trial court's ruling on liability, and the United States Supreme Court affirmed in a 6–3 vote in the case Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., finding that the statement was made without actual malice, and therefore there was no libel.[72][73][74] In an interview decades later Bose said "We had 37 people at the time. I gathered them in one room and said, 'If we don’t do anything, it will probably kill us. But if we do something, we have no credibility since we’re just a small company and we can’t do anything against this.' I said I think we oughtta do something. I wanted a vote. It was unanimous in favor of taking action. Little did we know it would take 14 years to go through the legal process."[15]

Bose sued Thiel Audio in the early 1990s to stop the audiophile loudspeaker maker from using ".2" (point two) at the end of its product model "CS2.2". To comply with Bose's trademark of ".2" associated with the Bose Model 2.2 product,[75] Thiel changed their model name to "CS2 2", substituting a space for the decimal point.[76] Bose did not trademark ".3" so in 1997 when Thiel introduced the next model in the series, they named it the "Thiel 2.3", advertising "the return of the decimal point."[77]

In 1996, Bose sued two subsidiaries of Harman International IndustriesJBL and Infinity Systems—for violating a Bose patent on elliptical tuning ports on some loudspeaker products.[71] In 2000, the court determined that Harman was to cease using elliptical ports in its products, and Harman was to pay Bose $5.7 million in court costs.[71] Harman stopped using the disputed port design but appealed the financial decision. At the end of 2002 the earlier judgment was upheld but by this time Bose's court expenses had risen to $8 million, all to be paid by Harman.[75]

Bose was successful in blocking QSC Audio Products from trademarking the term "PowerWave" in connection with a certain QSC amplifier technology. In 2002, a court decided that the "Wave" trademark was worthy of greater protection because it was well-known on its own, even beyond its association with Bose.[78]

In 2003, Bose sued the non-profit electronics trade organization CEDIA for use of the "Electronic Lifestyles" trademark[70] which CEDIA had been using since 1997. Bose argued that the trademark interfered with its own "Lifestyle" trademark.[79] Bose had previously sued to protect its "Lifestyle" trademark beginning in 1996 with a success against Motorola and continuing with settlements against New England Stereo, Lifestyle Technologies, Optoma and AMX.[80] In May 2007, CEDIA won the lawsuit after the court determined Bose to be guilty of laches (unreasonable delays), and that Bose's assertions of fraud and likelihood of confusion were without merit.[81] CEDIA was criticized for spending nearly $1 million of its member's money on the lawsuit, and Bose was criticized for "unsportsmanlike action against its own trade association", according to Julie Jacobson of CE Pro magazine.[80]

In July 2014, Bose sued Beats Electronics—a subsidiary of Apple Inc., for patent infringement, alleging that its "Studio" line incorporated noise cancellation technology that violated five patents held by the company. Bose has also sought an injunction which would ban the infringing products from being imported or sold in the United States.[82][83]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]